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By the early twentieth century, the royal and imperial families of Britain and Japan enjoyed a uniquely close relationship. The two nations saw themselves as ‘Island Empires’ of East and West. Exchanging honours and insignia became an important symbol of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance signed in 1902.

Exhibitions of Japanese art indicated a growing interest in Britain’s new ally and over 8 million people visited the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition in London. Among them was Queen Mary, consort of King George V, who was a devoted collector of Japanese art.

In this period, ancient rituals such as calligraphy and incense appreciation were maintained at the Japanese court. At the same time, painters, printmakers and photographers pioneered new styles combining European and Japanese techniques.

Courtly Visits

Royal and imperial bonds were cemented by official visits in the 20th century

Treaty Gifts

A close relationship between the two royal families saw a 1902 alliance and gift exchanges

Artistic Exchange

Japanese artists and styles became popular and influential in Europe

Courtly Ritual

Items pertaining to traditional Japanese aristocratic customs


Screens and panels depicting the beauty of nature